BEST ROOM TO TOAST SOMETHING SPECIAL
There is no written requirement that you must drink Champagne in the Champagne Room, the stunning space on the second floor of BLVD (817 W. Lake St., 312.526.3116, blvdchicago.com), the latest Fulton Market sensation. Feel free to order a Pinup Queen ($14), a refreshing and pretty mix of Aylesbury Duck vodka, crème de pêche, tonic syrup and orange bitters with a mezcal spritz. There’s an expertly made BLVDier, naturally—its Old Forester bourbon, herbes de Provence, Gancia Americano and saffron bitters an apropos update on the classic. You could drink those, sure. For a nibble, you could put in an order of brandade croquettes with kombu remoulade, if you must—elevated comfort food at its finest. But listen: You’ve come this far to this gorgeous room. You are properly attired. You have climbed the elegant curved staircase and admired the chandeliers and gorgeous old Hollywood ambiance of the establishment. What you really need is the seafood tower ($145), lobster, king crab, shrimp and oysters with all the fixings, or perhaps the Iranian Pearl Asetra 000 caviar service ($220), a grand treat. And with those, it’s only fitting that you’ll order the 2004 Dom Pérignon rosé ($625). Fitting, yes—though not required.
BEST COCKTAIL TIME MACHINE
Paul McGee’s quest for rare aperitifs and spirits is undiminished. Two years in, the beverage director for the tiny Milk Room and its bigger sibling, the Cherry Circle Room, in the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel (12 S. Michigan Ave., 312.792.3515, chicagoathletichotel.com) and his staff continue to source the limited, the rare and the impossible-to-find. Their newest cocktail is the Boothby ($150), named for a turn-of-the-last-century bartender. “His cocktail was a Manhattan topped with Champagne,” McGee says. “It took some time to find the right vermouth and the right whiskey and the right Champagne, but we finally found out.” The result? Elijah Craig 18-year, 1960s-era Carpano Punt e Mes vermouth, a dash of angostura bitters and—wait for it—a topper of Charles Krug brut, resulting in what McGee describes as an effervescent Manhattan. Cheers—it’s 1906 all over again.
The Ritz-Carlton (160 E. Pearson St., 312.266.1000, ritzcarlton.com) needs no introduction—but the property’s massive 2017 renovation means it’s time to renew the acquaintance. In the expansive lobby, design flourishes now evoke the sapphire waters of nearby Lake Michigan. The new ballrooms are gorgeous, as is the spa. But for pure opulence, the two-story, 2,900-square-foot Presidential Suite, complete with stunning lake views and a spiral staircase leading to the bedroom suite, remains a dream destination, floating like an ivory cloud over the blue horizon. Brand-new also are the sleek two-bedroom, two-bath Navy Pier Suites (from $2,000), providing 1,400 square feet of chic comfort 27 floors above the Mag Mile. All offer the new Club Lounge Experience, with continuous food and beverage presentations and a dedicated concierge—but why would you ever leave the suite?
BEST BESPOKE TOUR
Anyone up for Paris during Maison&Objet with designer Debi Lilly (who spends much of her free time in the City of Light) as your guide? India with Oscar Isberian from Isberian Rugs, who will introduce you to his favorite weavers? How about Asia with The Golden Triangle’s Doug Van Tress, who will reveal his sourcing secrets? These itineraries, along with world-class accommodations, are the offerings of Design Adventures Travel (from $3,000 per person, designadventurestravel.com), a new venture from designer Susan Fredman. “The feeling that you are truly being taken care of is something that sets us apart,” she says.
BEST BIG NIGHT OUT
It’s up, up and away for above-the-heights thrill-seeking couples with the Helicopter Package at the Dana Hotel and Spa (from $750, 660 N. State St., 312.202.6000, danahotelandspa.com). Your evening may start with drinks at the Apogee Lounge—appropriately on the 26th floor—giving you a preview of the sights to come. Post-cocktails, a private car whisks you to Chicago Helicopter Experience’s in-city helipad for a twilight tour of Chicago’s lights and sights. After spending the night at the luxurious Dana, you can relax the next day with a couples massage at the award-winning Spa at Dana.
BEST HOUSEHOLD STAFFING
Monika Januskyte started MoniCare Nannies and Household Staffing (2502 N. Clark St., 312.280.5200, monicare.com) as a nanny agency, but as client needs have grown, so have the offerings. “At the estate staffing level, these families need staff with specific skill sets,” Januskyte says. She is frequently asked for family assistants who can manage a household and the family calendar, or for a manager who can handle vendors and staffing schedules at multiple homes. “The biggest part of my job is to match the right person to the family. We have a 12-page application, and we reject a lot of candidates,” she says. It goes without saying that each candidate is interviewed in person and has multiple background checks. “A number of these families also need staff who can travel with them, sometimes for monthslong stays,” Januskyte says. “It’s just part of the skill set we’re looking for.” Fees for estate-level placements are usually 15 percent of the first year’s salary.
HEALTH & FITNESS
BEST PLACE TO LAY YOUR HEAD
British mattress maker Vispring’s newest offering is the Carmina, its first frame and headboard (king-size, $11,565), which can be paired with any of its mattresses, available at the in-store boutique in Chicago Luxury Beds (440 N. Wells St., 312.527.5337, chicagoluxurybeds.com). The Carmina goes well in a modern interior because of its low height and clean lines. For the ultimate night’s rest, we recommend pairing it with the Masterpiece Superb ($41,375) because, as Chicago Luxury Beds owner Mary Pat Wallace would say, “sleep is the most important thing in your life.”
BEST HIGH-TECH EYE DOC
A visit to Dr. Joanna Slusky of Halsted Eye Boutique (2852 N. Halsted St., 773.549.1111, drjoannaslusky.com) will be both painless—no drops, no puffs of air—and comprehensive. Her holistic approach to vision care is about inside-out health, using the latest technology to detect eye diseases, as well as diabetes and cancer. With her state-of-the-art machinery, she can map the back of your eye noninvasively. “I like to introduce devices that will not only help me analyze the findings, but will also make it easier on my patients,” says Slusky. Blue-light damage is a growing concern for our screen-obsessed world, leading to digital eyestrain and dry-eye syndrome; Slusky helps identify preventative measures and Nutraceutical therapies to combat the underlying conditions that cause them.
CULTURE & SOCIETY
BEST CHARITY GALA
The triennial Lyric Opera Wine Auction is a connoisseur’s nirvana, and April 14 will mark its 30th uncorking (tickets $1,500, 20 N. Wacker Drive, 312.332.2244, lyricopera.org). Five hundred of Chicago’s toniest designer-clad denizens will descend upon the dazzling Lyric Opera House to dine on the grand stage and raise many a Champagne flute to honoree Shirley Welsh Ryan, patron of the arts and creator of the Wine Auction. Château Margaux will be the Wine Auction 2018’s honored guest, and Northern Trust the presenting sponsor. Up for auction: wine lots both significant and rare (an imperial of 1986 Château Margaux or a bottle of 1945 Mouton Rothschild, perhaps?), spectacular trips (a luxury African safari; exclusive Napa Valley vineyard stays) and myriad more. The 2018 auction co-chairs, Keith Kiley Goldstein and Nancy S. Searle, invite you to be amazed—and to add generously to the more than $9 million raised for the Lyric Opera at auctions past.
BEST EVENT PLANNER
Marina Birch, owner of Birch Design Studio (1117 N. Dearborn Parkway, 312.280.6811, birchdesignstudio.com), is more than an event planner: She designs a party from top to bottom. Anything from a 20-person private dinner to an international event for hundreds gets her signature dedication. ”We don’t believe in ‘no’—where there is a will, there is a way,” says Birch, who notes one of her most treasured professional moments is when Andrea Bocelli performed at a client’s anniversary party. “We have arranged wedding processionals filled with horses, footmen and carriages; have flown in a dessert from France just so we could decipher its molecular gastronomy so it could be replicated stateside; and have even found a way to build a tent so that it would float on water,” says Birch. ”There is no endeavor we wouldn’t undertake for a client.”
DESIGN & REALTY
BEST KITCHEN ISLAND
The collaboration between Boffi and Zaha Hadid on the kitchens inside 520 West 28th—a luxury property in Chelsea, New York, and one of two Hadid-designed residential buildings in the United States—resulted in the Cove kitchen, a graceful, multifunctional island that is a standout feature in the open-concept units (price upon request, 309 W. Superior St., 312.787.2323, boffi.com). Inspired by Hadid’s MAXXI Museum in Rome, the Cove is a monobloc structure with a sink, storage, a cooktop and a counter that curves over the sides, revealing a contrasting recessed-wood base that provides room for seating. The Cove is available in two sizes, but is customizable (as with all Boffi collections) to numerous specifications, configurations and materials.
BEST PET HOSPITALITY
The Peninsula Chicago (108 E. Superior St., 312.337.2888, chicago.peninsula.com) is known for its pampering—from the luxurious rooms to the fine dining to the top-notch spa—and that commitment to the finer things extends all the way down to the hotel’s four-legged guests. Upon check-in, pets will receive a welcome amenity, a pet bed, special bottled water and its own Peninsula bowls. If your pup favors a more curated menu, room service can offer up the beagle burger, Chihuahua chicken and rice, or tabby tuna tartare on demand. While human guests are out and about, pooches can play, either with walks to nearby parks or an indulgent canine in-room massage designed to improve circulation and relieve stress ($115 for 30 minutes, $225 for 60 minutes). And should any issue arise, the hotel has access to 24-hour emergency veterinary care, ensuring peace of mind for any pet parent.